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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Don’t just get angry, do something about it!

Don’t just get angry, do something about it!

October 10th, 2009

Career Opportunities podcast logoDon’t just get angry, do something about it
By Douglas E. Welch



I was sitting at my favorite local coffee shop the other day, reading some email and sipping my latte, when it suddenly became a very stressful place to be. Two tables away a man sat talking loudly on his cell phone. While I wasn’t necessarily upset that he was talking on his phone, the tenor of his conversation made my chest clench with anxiety. He was obviously having trouble with a business partner and spent 15-20 minutes laying out his troubles in graphic detail.

Then, a short time later, I heard another conversation begin, even more angry and graphic than the first. One woman was complaining vociferously to her friend about how she had systematically been frozen out of a business relationship. I was amazed at what she was saying within clear earshot of any number of strangers. Again, her anger spilled out regardless of who might be listening.

Airing our dirty laundry in a public place is never a good idea. You never know who might be listening — a friend of your target, the target themselves, future clients or employers. While I have taken that up in past columns, I want to address a deeper issue of this behavior in this one. Too often we replace action with anger. We spend our time in unproductive complaining instead of getting something done.

Venting has its advantages. It can feel cleansing. It can feel good. It can also be a substitute for more important work. I have my moments of venting. You only need to ask my wife about that. That said, my next step is to take some direct action about the problem I am facing. I find great solace in movement — in action. Sometimes this action takes the form of a good long walk. Sometimes I write about it. Sometimes I start to plan my movement to disentangle myself from a bad situation. What I try not to do is wallow.

It is so easy to descend into the depths of a bad situation and wallow there for days or weeks. Wallowing allows us to blame everyone and everything but ourselves. We can lash out at the economy, co-workers, clients, the world and heaven above. We can feel like we are taking action, but in reality we are going absolutely nowhere. We are wallowing deeper and deeper in the mud hole, making it increasingly difficult to get out. Wallowing is a death spiral, like an airplane in a deadly spin. Only dramatic action will save you.

If you find yourself wallowing, do everything you can to stop the descent immediately. Go for a walk. Start work on another project. Plan your resignation. Do something that will help to clear your head a bit and slow your descent. Next, take a long, hard, look at yourself, your actions, your behaviors and yes, your mistakes. It is rare that a problem is solely caused by outside forces.

Like the scene from “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” when Lukes walks into the jungle, “What is in there?” he asks. “Only what you bring with you.” replies Yoda. We carry our own baggage and would do well to recognize our own issues and failings, along with the failings (as you see them) of those around you. Sometimes, when we recognize our own culpability in our problems it can help us to find a way out. The problem no longer resides “out there” but rather inside ourselves where we can actually do something about it.

When anger strikes, it is okay to vent — to a friend, to a spouse, to your journal. For your own sake, don’t do it in public. You might do more harm than good if someone overhears. But remember that once you have vented, it is time to get back to work. Look at the problem objectively. Look for opportunities to take action. What next steps can you put into play immediately to reduce the effects of your problem or avoid it in the future? What can you change about yourself, your life, your career that can make these problems only a memory?

Don’t just get angry — do something about it!

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